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TV DVDs

The latest titles from TV series and TV specials range to hit the shelves and online stores

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Monday, 25 October 2010

In the gradual evolution of The Avengers, Optimum Home Entertainment has now reached Season 5, which was the only run of episodes with Emma Peel that were filmed in colour. Given their impact it’s hard to believe that following a year in monochrome, Diana Rigg would only provide a single year of episodes that gave reign to the whole rainbow of hues available.

Hitting UK screens in 1966, and going Stateside in 1967, this is The Avengers at its most confident and outrageous.  With the American market the reason for the technicolour production values, to complement them the thoroughly British aspect of the series was turned up to 11. As much as the Adam West Batman of the time was in an enhanced reality, so these adventures of Steed and Peel were in a surreal world we all wish we inhabited.

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Monday, 25 October 2010

Produced between 1983 and 1986, Just Good Friends showcases the classic archetype of an on-off relationship. The series mines the subject for every last drop of romantic comedy and also a sizeable helping of drama. Paul Nicholas (The Royal Today, “Tommy”) and Jan Francis (Collision, Stay Lucky) are Vince and Penny, a couple as madly in love with each other as they are mad at each other.

Vince Pinner is a working-class smart aleck from Walthamstow who cannot resist the ladies and whose charm is as slick as his truthfulness is economic. His family owns a profitable scrap metal business and his parents spend their money on tasteless tat and flashy mod cons. In stark contrast, Penny Warrender comes from a posh upper middle-class family who pride themselves on their perfect pronunciation and quality furnishings.

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Monday, 18 October 2010

When Dark Skies was first broadcast on Channel 4 in the UK, it was seen as riding the wave created by the incredibly successful The X-Files. Granted it had aliens and conspiracies, but what gave it the edge was that it began by being set in the past, and it was our true history that it was engaged in.  For those who knew the timeline of the 1960s, it took us through the era of President John F Kennedy, on past flower power and right to the end of that decade.

The series deals with one of the biggest cover-ups ever known – the ‘investigation’ of the JFK assassination by the Warren Commission.  Famed UFO incident folk, including Barney and Betty Hill, make an appearance. We even get The Beatles and The Doors becoming embroiled in the dastardly goings-on, Carl Sagan makes a couple of cameos, and Bobby Kennedy’s one of the biggest allies of our chief protagonists.  So, despite its ultra-serious story arc, this is a fun series worthy of your attention.

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Sunday, 17 October 2010

I remember this series from its original transmission at the dawn of the 1980s. It has that silly style of farcical humour that comes from vaudeville routes, and with situations that spiral out of control due to a lack of communication and people trying to hide secrets or hoping to shepherd people into a certain course of actions that are not necessarily for their own benefit.  It’s one of those rarities – a funny ITV sitcom that will have you smiling if not hooting right out loud.

Robert Gillespie stars as Dudley, the father of the family – a struggling comic artist, famed for ‘Barney - The Bionic Bulldog’.  He is known for dramatic roles such as Naylor in Freewheelers, and Sam Mead in Survivors, but this is probably his finest character.  ‘Dudley’ channels the spirit of Groucho Marx in his approach to life, fused with some of the type of clowning you’d associate with Peter Sellers, and the occasional hopelessness of Tony Hancock.  It’s no wonder that he was the pivotal reason for this series running for five seasons.

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Friday, 15 October 2010

This new series of “Revisitations” releases – there are anticipated to be two more to make a trio of boxes – seems to have become a very divisive exercise amongst fans. The titles selected for volume one aren’t united by any over-arching theme, other than having the ability to generate a host of new extras as they have been previously released on DVD, and two of the three stories are widely known to be some of the best of the original version of Doctor Who.

Some fans are complaining about the ‘double dip’ into their wallets that these enhanced releases represent, while others have stated categorically that they aren’t interested in the added extras and won’t be buying. Rest assured that DVD label 2Entertain know what they are doing – these releases will be snapped up by the truly devoted fans of classic Who, simply because these new extras make these new boxed sets worth the purchase price alone.

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Thursday, 14 October 2010

‘High concept’ series these days normally have an element of mystery within their format. With FlashForward, out now on DVD, the premise was simple: what if the whole planet blacked out for 2 minutes and 17 seconds, and everyone had a vision of what they would be doing six months from now? Amongst our number were also people who had no visions, which suggested they weren’t going to be around at that point.

Extraordinary fiction always has the problem that people try to pigeonhole a show – with no natural predecessors for comparison, the critics labelled it the new Lost – a bit daft as apart from jumps around in time there’s very little comparable DNA within the two series. The problem the show had was that this was a big mystery, requiring a huge canvas, and needed the audience to pay attention. Unfortunately, as no doubt Channel 4’s new import The Event will also discover, patience is not something the viewing public has these days.

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Monday, 04 October 2010

With a new version of the story having just been broadcast by ITV1, it was inevitable that Andrea Newman’s original controversial series, and its sequel Another Bouquet, would find themselves available again on DVD. Previous versions had been selling for upwards of £150.00, even for ‘previously owned’ copies, so there has remained a huge interest in the series, even before having a reimagining produced.

The first series took seven one hour episodes to tell its tale – the new version chose to compress everything into just three. It would be easy to conclude that this means the original was far slower, but if truth be told the web it weaves is far more intricate and a greater examination of all the characters involved. It is a perfect example of how the people who populate a story can move it on as much as any plot.

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Monday, 04 October 2010

You can link this TV movie adaption to Doctor Who, specifically the Paul McGann TV movie from the 1990s – Matthew Jacobs did the screenplay for that, and he also provided the script for this version of “Lorna Doone”.  Widely considered by classicists as one of the great love stories of English literature, here it is retold with direction by Andrew Grieve, who has since helmed the likes of Hornblower, Wire in the Blood, Poirot and Kingdom.

It’s the significant array of acting talent present which should really be the reason this one gains your attention. Starring as John Ridd is Clive Owen, who went on to star in Chancer and Sharman on the small screen, before becoming big box office in “Children of Men”, “Duplicity” and “Sin City”. Also on hand to lend thespian muscle are the icons Sean Bean and Billie Whitelaw.

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Thursday, 30 September 2010

This is one of those Doctor Who adventures that never had high regard.  I recall watching at the time it was originally broadcast, and despite my best efforts, and even with me considering Sylvester McCoy not a bad choice as the regenerated seventh Doctor, I couldn’t by any measure consider it a good launch.  I found myself in the situation of making excuses for it rather than actually enjoying it.

With this DVD release of “Time and the Rani”, the full horror of the background to the production means that there are now genuine reasons to give for this “bugger’s muddle”.  It demonstrates that, even at its low points, when context is given to what the team was having to work against, there is enjoyment to be had in revisiting most Doctor Who stories, and that includes this quartet of episodes.

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Tuesday, 21 September 2010

ITV1’s modern version of Andrea Newman's 1976 taboo-busting psychological drama was reworked by writer Guy Andrews, who brought us “Lost in Austen” - he also acted as Executive Producer on that mini-series. The new three part reformatting is a considerable departure from its predecessor from nearly 25 years ago, with new plot twists and a streamlining of the plot.

Trevor Eve takes over from Frank Finlay as Peter Manson, who is in the midst of one hell of a mid-life crisis.  His daughter has orchestrated her pregnancy, the soon-to-be son-in-law can be described as ‘unhinged’ at best, and his wife finds herself with divided loyalties.  Now you can get hold of this new production on DVD, and compare its Hollywood leanings to the original – and you even had a chance of winning a copy by voting in this year’s Cult TV Awards.

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Wednesday, 15 September 2010

As the dust settles on the six seasons of Lost, there’s no doubt that the debate continues as to what the series really did mean, what each of the mysterious elements represented, and what inconsistencies were left trailing behind it. So, no doubt with the series having landed on Blu-ray and DVD, there’ll be plenty of people who have already got hold of this wrapping and bow to this televisual present. And if you've missed out entirely to date, you can also get hold of a Lost Complete Collection Box Set. 

Lost - The Final Season contains hours of exclusive bonus features including deleted scenes, blooper reels, an in-depth on-set featurette that focuses on the end of the series, and a much anticipated new chapter of the island’s story from Executive Producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse. This is the real centre piece of the release, as it reveals the reason for polar bears and also what happened to Walt.

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Friday, 10 September 2010

This 1990s sitcom was created and written by Simon Nye of Men Behaving Badly, Hardware and Reggie Perrin fame.  It starred Richard Lumsden (Life of Riley), Imelda Staunton (Cranford) and Jeremy Clyde (Jam and Jerusalem). Its format chronicles the misadventures of a team of deeply flawed characters staffing the offices of a small suburban law firm. Is It Legal? Was originally aired between 1995 and 1998 over three seasons, and won the British Comedy Award for Best Sitcom in 1996.

We begin with newly qualified solicitor Colin Lotus entering the profession, fired with idealism and a genuine desire to help people. He hardly gets off to an auspicious start, with a tragedy involving his first client at Hounslow solicitors Lotus Spackman & Phelps. As a junior partner at the firm, his legal career takes a decidedly shambolic turn from this point on. He is surrounded by a team that show the highpoint of ineptitude – with the likes of dozy office boy Darren, skill-free secretary Alison, permanently infatuated married clerk Bob, and golf-obsessed, sherry-soaked senior partner Dick, he actually fits in better than he really should!

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Thursday, 26 August 2010

Each of the world’s major cities has its best detective agency, and each of these has its best agents - super-agents like The Protectors. The most sensitive, baffling, dangerous assignments are handled by their top trio of adventurers. The iconic Robert Vaughn stars as Harry Rule, the suave American who leads their operations from his London apartment; Nyree Dawn Porter (Irene in The Forsyte Saga) is the Rome-based Contessa di Contini, and Tony Anholt is Paul Buchet (Tony Verdeschi in Season 2 of Space: 1999), a French agent operating out of Paris.

Produced by Gerry Anderson and Reg Hill of Thunderbirds fame, this was a glossy, stylish series from Lew Grade’s ITC’s stable, but included actual location filming in some of Europe’s most glamorous cities. Tony Christie sings the show’s legendary theme tune, “Avenues and Alleyways” – a UK Top 40 hit on its re-release in 2005 – and now new telly addicts can discover its origins. This new Network 7-DVD set comprises all 52 episodes, originally aired between 1972 and 1974.

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Thursday, 19 August 2010

Earlier this year, Cineology was delighted to see “The Return of The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman” come to DVD.  This was the first of a trio of ‘Bionic Reunions’ of the original series cast members that had been produced over the years.  It is no surprise, therefore, that this threesome of TV movies can now be completed on collector shelves with the release of “Bionic Showdown” and “Bionic Ever After”, available from Mediumrare on 27 September 2010.

In the first movie, made in 1987, we find that our hero Steve Austin (Lee Majors) is now a disenchanted loner, who is persuaded out of his seclusion by his old friends at the Office of Scientific Intelligence (OSI) to help them defeat Fortress, a group of international terrorists. His former heart-throb, Jaime Sommers (Lindsay Wagner) is also co-opted to join in the operation.

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Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Gerald Harper had taken TV by storm in Adam Adamant Lives! – but his next venture would bring to life the character he is most associated with: James Hadleigh. The character begins by taking over as proprietor of the ‘Westdale Gazette’, a Yorkshire newspaper owned by his father. Created by Robert Barr and originally screened in 1968, Gazette introduced us to the charming, privileged but conscientious protagonist and his mixed fortunes that would continue to be chronicled in the sequel show Hadleigh. That series became one of Yorkshire Television’s most popular and long-running series, airing between 1969 and 1976.

Right from the first episode, Hadleigh finds that the day-to-day running of the newspaper throws up thorny issues of public allegiances, the right to privacy, and potentially libellous reporting. Plots cover the controversy surrounding hunting, police cover stories, and many delicate dilemmas for Hadleigh and his reporting team to traverse through.

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Wednesday, 11 August 2010

This ITC crime drama series, loosely based on Edgar Wallace’s novel of 1905, assembles quartet of leads who rotate as being the star turn in successive episodes. These are Jack Hawkins (“The Cruel Sea”), Richard Conte (“The Godfather”), plus Oscar nominees Vittorio de Sica (nominated for “A Farewell to Arms” in 1958) and Dan Dailey (nominated for “When My Baby Smiles at Me” in 1949). Regular co-stars include Avengers icon Honor Blackman, as glamorous secretary Nicole, Lisa Gastoni as Giulia, June Thorburn as Vicky, and Andrew Keir (“Quatermass and the Pit”) as Jock.

The Four Just Men garnered rave reviews from critics and proved a major success. Making early TV appearances alongside our quartet of stars are the likes of Judi Dench, Frank Thornton, Alan Bates, Jane Asher, Roger Delgado and Patrick Troughton. Making its debut in 1959, and produced by Sapphire Films Ltd at Walton Studios and on location in Britain, Italy and France, it sets the style for some future ITC productions, with its cosmopolitan flavour and picture postcard settings.

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Tuesday, 27 July 2010

“Codename: Kyril” comes from an era where espionage menace comes from the deadly silence of its protagonists. This mini-series offers complex characterisations and an intelligent treatment of the theme of trust and betrayal. It’s not from the James Bond crash-bang school of spying, having been adapted by the award-winning John Hopkins – whose previous credits include “Smiley’s People” and Z Cars. One of the Executive Producers is Primetime Emmy Award winner Patrick Dromgoole (Robin of Sherwood). This release presents the complete two-part mini-series (usually only seen in a radically edited ‘TV movie’ form), originally screened in 1988.

Edward Woodward (Callan and The Equalizer) stars opposite Ian Charleson (“Chariots of Fire”) in this taut and skilfully plotted Cold War thriller. Providing star-studded support are the likes of Joss Ackland, Peter Vaughan, Richard E Grant and Denholm Elliott.

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Monday, 19 July 2010

The Corridor People ran for only four one hour episodes in 1966, yet has garnered a considerable underground cult following. Incredibly difficult to pigeonhole, reviewers have mentioned the likes of The Avengers, Twin Peaks and even Monty Python as reference points. However, it is none of these as it carved its own niche, with its mainly-studio recorded monochrome production, a few filmed inserts, and a combination of surreal characters and camera work. Rest assured that once seen it will never be forgotten. 

Phil Scrotty is an American, Bogart-worshipping private detective, and each episode sees him pitched against the cunning schemes of Syrie Van Epp, a beautiful but treacherous Persian millionaire. 

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Sunday, 04 July 2010

Terrorism, kidnapping, hijacking and espionage are the daily dangers faced by David Barber and Tom Duffy, chief operatives for Saracen - a private security firm whose clients are governments, industry and individual contractors worldwide.  Barber? Duffy? Yes, just think Bodie and Doyle from The Professionals.

Their backgrounds and personalities are radically different to their initial inspirations, though – not a permed hairstyle in sight! Barber is tall, dark and with typical English reserve, having left the SAS when a mission went tragically wrong. The blond, ruthless Duffy is a relaxed, ruggedly charming American trained in the elite Delta Force. Under Saracen’s founder and director, retired army officer Colonel Patrick Ansell, the agents take on high-risk tasks too sensitive or unpredictable for other agencies to handle.

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Sunday, 04 July 2010

Florence in Italy during the 16th Century was undergoing a renaissance. Poets, painters and craftsmen created genuine works of arts. However, something is not right in this cradle of civilisation. The city’s leader is the unhinged and power-hungry Duke de Medici. He is opposed by a coalition of Republicans, one of note being legendary artist Marco del Monte - painter, swordsman, and champion of the downtrodden – Robin Hood for the Mediterranean. He uses his wits, cunning and weaponry in the bid to restore freedom to the area.

Another of ITC’s successful historical adventure series, Sword of Freedom stars Edmund Purdom, with guest stars including Kenneth Williams, Peter Wyngarde, Geoffrey Bayldon, John Le Mesurier, Patrick Troughton, Roger Delgado, Paul Eddington, Charles Gray, Michael Bryant and Andrew Keir. Thanks to Network DVD, this is the first time that the complete series has been released in any format and is presented in production order.

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Sunday, 27 June 2010

Almost lost forever from the archives, The Georgian House was on one of the best of the studio-bound children’s TV productions of its era in 1976, Written by acclaimed author Jill Laurimore with noted producer/writer Harry Moore (The Clifton House Mystery, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) it was produced by Leonard White (The Avengers, Armchair Theatre). Cult children’s television actor Spencer Banks (Timeslip, Tightrope) stars alongside Jack Watson (Sky, Arthur of the Britons) in a series that “The Stage” lauded as “visually rich, sumptuously produced (and) a quality production”.

Made as a seven-episode series, unfortunately only a trio of episodes are now known to exist – two in original transmission format (Episodes 1 “New Recruits” and 7 “Look To Your Future”) and one on home video held by a private collector (Episode 3 “Treachery”). Long sought after by television aficionados, this release can bring you the beginning, middle and end of the story, allowing you to fill in the gaps with PDF scripts of some of the missing episodes.

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Sunday, 27 June 2010

Clive Owen who had found earlier TV fame with Chancer (as Stephen Crane) brings a 1990s down-at-hill vibe to the role of private detective Nick Sharman in a stylish drama based on the best-selling novels by Marc Timlin. Blending classic film noir elements with hard-hitting realism and explosive action, Sharman helped to further pave the way to Owen’s forthcoming superstardom. The series features rapidly paced storylines from, among others, Tony Hoare (The Sweeney, Minder), Guy Jenkin (Outnumbered, Drop The Dead Donkey) and award-winning Paul Abbott (Shameless, Touching Evil)

Nick Sharman is a disillusioned, down-at-heel private investigator. An instinctive loner with a shady past, he can also be charming, quick-witted, determined and, despite his faults, he has an undeniable attraction for many of the women he encounters, while dealing with the fallout from a failed marriage. For his part, there’s only one ‘woman’ who is a constant in his life - his young daughter Judith. Although his line of work seemed a natural choice after his promising Metropolitan Police career fell apart, it is starting to feel like a dead end.

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Sunday, 27 June 2010

Who dares to walk the line between life and death? In 1972, Pinewood Studios was the home of this intriguing production. Star Trek icon Leonard Nimoy and British treasure Susan Hampshire starred in this eerie story of revenge and murder from beyond the grave. Baffled is an ITC pilot for a never-commissioned series, is directed by Phillip Leacock – an established film and TV regular, with credits that include Gunsmoke and The Wild Wild West.  As it was executive-produced by Norman Felton as an Arena Production for ITC, it means it had the same pedigree as the earlier cult series Strange Report.

Tom Kovack is a hard-nosed devil-may-care racing driver, until a sudden supernatural vision during the Pennsylvania 500 Mile Special race causes him to lose control of his car as he hurtles off-track at 140 miles per hour. Michele Brent is the woman who convinces Tom that his apparitions are significant. When she leads him to the manor house of his vision, he meets glamorous film star Andrea Glenn and her daughter, Jennifer, whose screaming image was the last thing he saw before his near-fatal crash.

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Saturday, 12 June 2010

You can win Diana Rigg’s debut season of The Avengers, retailing at £59.99, for nominating in this year’s Cult TV Awards. We have three copies to give away to the trio pulled out of our electronic hat, and this is one hell of an incentive to get your ‘thinking cap’ on! The Avengers Series 4 hit UK audiences in 1965-6, with some major changes from what had gone before.

More than 80 actresses auditioned for the role before Rigg was discovered.  Her screen test with Macnee showed the two immediately worked well together, and a new era in Avengers history began.  It was also this series, the first to be on film, but the last to be in black and white, which was sold to US television for the then unheard of sum of $2 million. This made it one of the first British series to be aired on prime-time American Television.

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Friday, 21 May 2010

For those of you who thought the idea of the spin-off series is a fairly recent phenomenon, let me introduce you to The Sentimental Agent. This short-lived ITC series had its origins in an episode of Man Of The World, and featured Argentinean actor Carlos Thompson as the import-export agent Carlos Varela. Widely travelled, he was cast to be the sort of romantic lead popular at the time in both film and movies. The character fronts warehouse-based operation Mercury International, and enjoys making money dealing in all sorts of merchandise, as well as assisting those in trouble.

Carlos has a ‘Girl Friday’ in the shape of his secretary Suzy Carter, played by Clemence Brittany - the perfect combination of good looks and cool efficiency, with the sort of secret service connections any PA will thrive on! And who else but Burt Kwouk could play Chin, the oriental helping hand to Varela, whose only weakness is a passion for gambling.

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